Broadly Focused Podcast – Episode 20

Well, we started off this episode of the podcast on the right track!  We got our recording session in on Monday night, and we had a ton of articles to choose from.  We carried our Topics of Interest over from last week’s modified format, and managed another news section, this time on science.  We kept our time right at an hour, and got through live once again, albeit with a slight interruption you shouldn’t be able to hear post-editing.  The only mishap was, if you listen carefully as our outtro music starts, Brian’s mic is still hot while he is moving it out of his way as we try to exit our broiling hot studio as quickly as possible.  I laughed, it was my own doing – Brian has been on channel three for weeks, as we had some excess noise on channel two.  I was expecting to send in the mixer for warranty repair.  In any case, when the music starts, I always ‘punch out’ (mute) both of us so we can start getting cleaned up – in this case, I ‘punched out’ lines one and three, as usual, but that left two still hot and…

News Items:

GOP, Critical Thinking and Approaches to Education

It seems more like a headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion, but the Republican Party of Texas recently published its party platform, a report that – among other things – calls for a ban on teaching critical thinking skills in Texas schools because of its “focus on behavior modification” that has “the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” That’s just one of the many startling positions adopted by the state’s Republican Party at its recent convention in Fort Worth.

Brian points out that opening paragraph shows a bit of quote-mining, but the document itself is still unbelievable.

Kein Schneiden der Wurst

As of today in Germany, religious-based circumcision is considered bodily harm–a criminal offense regardless of parental consent. Circumcisions carried out for medical reasons, however, are not illegal.

The ruling was inspired by a groundbreaking case, argued in a regional court in Cologne, where a doctor circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy at the request of the boy’s parents. When the boy was hospitalized for hemorrhaging four days after the procedure, prosecutors were notified and the doctor was charged with grievous bodily harm, or Korperverletztung, in German.

Ding, ding… I’m not sure either of us expected this issue to be a big one, but we were not seeing eye to eye on this issue, and spent a good chunk of the podcast on it.  To me, this is genital mutilation to an infant – pure and simple.  I have found no evidence-backed medical reason for the procedure, and the only justifications I know of all trace back to Bronze-Age rituals.  Brian tears into me on a couple of points, including being insulting toward various religious people.  Fisticuffs ensue rapidly.  Seriously.  OK, not really, but we did argue.  So there’s that.

Solar Flares Destroys Exo-planet Atmosphere

An international team of astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made an unparalleled observation, detecting significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system.

The scientists conclude the atmospheric variations occurred in response to a powerful eruption on the planet’s host star, an event observed by NASA’s Swift satellite.

“The multiwavelength coverage by Hubble and Swift has given us an unprecedented view of the interaction between a flare on an active star and the atmosphere of a giant planet,” said lead researcher Alain Lecavelier des Etangs at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics (IAP), part of the French National Scientific Research Center located at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris.

The exoplanet HD 189733b lies so near its star that it completes an orbit every 2.2 days. In late 2011, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope found that the planet’s upper atmosphere was streaming away at speeds exceeding 300,000 mph. Just before the Hubble observation, NASA’s Swift detected the star blasting out a strong X-ray flare, one powerful enough to blow away part of the planet’s atmosphere.

Data from Nasa

This like, totally blew us away, man.

Injecting life saving oxygen into a vein

Patients unable to breathe because of acute lung failure or an obstructed airway need another way to get oxygen to their blood — and fast — to avoid cardiac arrest and brain injury. A team led by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital has designed tiny, gas-filled microparticles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream to quickly oxygenate the blood. Animal testing showed that in the worst case scenario (blocked trachea) the animal was able to live – without taking a single breath – for 15 minutes.

Scientists may announce discovery of Higgs Boson, the ‘God particle,’ this week

On Wednesday at the CERN particle physics research centre near Geneva, two separate teams of “Higgs Hunters” — a term they profess to hate — may well announce they have spotted it.

Or at least something that looks incredibly like it.

“Think of it as a smoking duck,” says Oliver Buchmueller, a senior scientist on one of the teams, the CMS.
“If it walks like a Higgs and it quacks like a Higgs, then we would have to at least consider the possibility that we have a prominent new member of the Boson family on our hands.”

This is almost news.  People are speculating that they might be in the future saying they have found something that could possibly be the Higgs… We sort of rail on the mainstream media’s poor excuse for science reporting. Continue reading

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